Use of the Forest

Public use of Saginaw Forest is encouraged. Rules for the public's use include (but are not limited to):

Friday, December 31, 2010

Evaporating snow leads to mist

There's mist rising from the melting snow, making for an interesting ground-level vista.




Changing views of the forest

Over the months, I have taken photos of the lake from the front of the cabin. Putting them in chronological order, one can see the progression of the seasons...

Rain in the forest

It's raining in the forest today, and the temperature is reaching 10C, too! I don't know how thick the ice is, but I'm not going to be walking out on it until it gets nice and frozen again...



Thursday, December 23, 2010

Trekking around the forest

Trekking across TSLThird Sister Lake has frozen enough to have an illegal ice-fisher out on the ice, and today I made my way (cautiously) across the ice on my rounds. Although I was not the first person to walk across the lake this season, I didn't grow up in places where lakes froze over (at least to the point of being able to walk on them). Also, being a rather large guy, I am wary of having things adequately bear my weight. Anyway, I mustered up my courage and headed out, following the paths of former walkers.

Helpful cuttingUp on the northwest part of the forest, I found that someone had a go at cutting out a path through some of the larger woody debris that has fallen across the user-generated path that leads to the main road from the user-generated entrance opposite Westview Way. While I don't mind that people are taking an interest in the accessibility to the forest, I am a little concerned that this might lead to actions that are successively more dangerous. If you happen to be the person doing this, I thank you for your efforts, but please e-mail me (link to the right) if you have concerns about accessibility. However, remember that this is not a public facility, but rather a research facility to which the public - on their own personal responsibility - is allowed access for the 12 hours between 6 AM and 6 PM.

Winter Bird-feeding

Woodpecker at the feeder

Female Cardinal

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Happy Winter Solstice!

Solstice bonfire

Jet effect


Solstice +1.5 hours

A walk in the woods

I walked along the north side of the forest this Winter-Solstice evening, taking along my camera. I encountered a lost scarf adorning a tree (and decided to leave it there).

En-scarfed tree

Then, I moved along and started hearing what sounded like owls in the pines. Moving back toward the main path leading to the south side of Third Sister Lake, I happened across this scene, which really made me -- for some reason -- want to take a photo of it.

Snowy landscape

As I walked through the "Arboretum" portion of the forest, I noticed some footprints in the snow walking to the lake. Having had problems with ice-fishers in the last winters, I decided to ensure that these tracks belonged to someone who decided (inexplicably) to walk off the path and see the lake from the western end. However... no such luck. The ice fishers are (apparently) back and (again) trying to hide this fact by sneakily setting up on the far end of the lake.

Illegal ice-fishing setup

This one, and its twin (installed a few meters away) were removed.

With the solstice being tonight (in one hour from now!) I'll be making a fire to see it in.

Brids at the feeder

The birds are really liking the sunflower seeds. I've lifted the bird feeder even higher this winter to minimize the chance that squirrels could jump onto it and take seeds. (There are, after all, several seeds that fall to the ground, and squirrels aren't why I put the seeds in the birdfeeder.)

Birds at the feeder

Monday, December 13, 2010

More drilling

Due to test wells drilled earlier this year, the MDNRE is having PALL dig more testing wells around the area. They will be digging at least one new test well in the forest this coming January, on the northwest side of the property.


The snow plow is out in the forest, making a path to the main gate. Yay!

Before the plow could come, though, I had to ensure that the path down from the gate was free from tree obstuction, so I walked the main road:

And then - after some cutting - I wrestled away the felled trees.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Death in the woods

I slept over at a friend's place last night, and I received a phone call over lunch from the U-M police informing me that there was a hurt deer that was called in, and could I meet someone at the gate to let them in to put the deer down. I informed them that - unfortunately - I could not quickly do so.

Coming back to the forest, I looked for the dead deer, but the only evidence that there was one was a blood stain in the snow with what looked like some brain matter.

In the cabin, one of the mousetraps has caught yet another mouse.

Friday, December 10, 2010

The first decent snowfall...

A couple of inches fell last night, coating Saginaw Forest, and transforming the view from my front window from this (morning of Dec 6):


to this (morning of Dec 10):
First snowfall of December 2010

Apparently, too, the -14C temperature of Thursday morning was enough to finally put a layer of ice on the lake.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Entries from Kurt Byers

I received an e-mail from Kurt Byers, the Saginaw Forest caretaker during the summers of 1984 and 1985, together with some photos that he took. This was a really heart-warming thing to see, especially after waking up to 7F (-14C) temperatures this morning. Parts of the e-mail are posted below. As well, I have updated the entries that Kurt had written in his journal from his tenure.
Ah, memories. I noticed the blurb about your UM SNRE Saginaw Forest caretaker blog in the Fall 2010 issue of "Stewards." I was the caretaker at Saginaw Forest the summers of 1984 (between my junior and senior years at SNR) and 1985, after I graduated that spring as a 33-year-old "returning adult student" with a BS in Natural Resources and concentration in the now-defunct Environmental Communication program.

I was the sole student in that program when SNR shut it down in 1985 and released my academic advisor, Rich Block, due to a budget crisis (and perhaps low enrollment in the concentration and a concurrent general move by SNR to phase out its undergraduate programs). But I'm happy to say that academic program launched me on what is now a satisfying 25-year career in environmental communication with the NOAA Sea Grant College Program, starting with Michigan Sea Grant at UM my final semester at SNR, and for the past 22 years with Alaska Sea Grant at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. Sea Grant bio:

My two summers as caretaker at Saginaw Forest were peaceful and uneventful. There was no caretaker journal then, as far as I know. I did, however, keep a personal journal. Spurred by the blurb in Stewards, I dug up my journal from that time to see what, if anything, I wrote about my stints at Saginaw Forest. (Not much)

I do recall splitting a huge pile of firewood, mowing the lawn, doing check-walks around the lake, wondering about toxins in the lake from the Gelman micro filter company, and sleeping on a mattress on the floor in the loft. And, somehow, in 1985, I lost my bowling ball out of a small U-Haul trailer I rented when I moved my stuff from my married housing apartment (although I was not married then) by the Medical Center (roach-infested apartments now torn down) to Saginaw Forest.

The most memorable event was when I lost my 12-foot aluminum john boat, when it somehow got loose and floated away in 1985. Then working part-time for Michigan Sea Grant as an editorial assistant, I had recently edited the Master's thesis of Sea Grant-funded UM grad student, Karl Huggins. His thesis described his invention of the Orca EDGE (Electronic Dive Guide) dive computer, which gained him everlasting fame in the scuba diving world.

Assuming my boat had sunk in the deep, cold lake, I easily persuaded Karl to do a search-and-recovery dive to try to find it. Karl and his dive buddy (photos attached) treated it like a training dive, spending a weekend afternoon scuba diving in the lake looking for my boat. No luck. Later, when the lake froze over and the cattails died, I found my boat frozen in the ice deep in the cattails, a place inaccessible to search without a boat in the summer. I tried to hack it out of the ice with an axe. I don't remember if I succeeded or if I had to wait to recover the boat later in the year when the ice thawed.

In any case, I was amazed to read the log entry from January 3, 1986, by caretaker R. Boyle, wherein he noted his discovery of what he speculated to be my boat! I don't recall anyone notifying me of his find and I don't recall knowing R. Boyle. Maybe both of us found it at different times that winter. Epilogue: A quarter century later, the boat is still around, now possessed by my brother-in-law in Grand Rapids!

My then girlfriend and later-to-be-wife, the late Poksyn Yoon (deceased 2008), was a post doc biochemist at UM and lived down Liberty Road about a mile or two from the Saginaw Forest gate. During the summer of 1985 I worked two jobs-two days a week for Michigan Sea Grant on North Campus, and three days a week for a residential accessory (room additions, carports, etc.--that's the company's Ford pickup in the attached photos) company in Livonia. On her way to campus, Poksyn would often leave a lunch for me in a small Igloo cooler on the gate to the Saginaw Forest driveway, and I'd grab it when I left for work in the morning. One morning someone absconded with it, and that was the end of that little ritual.
Karl Huggins: setting up for scuba search

Dr. Poksyn Yoon


Kurt in front of the cabin.


It's amazing to me how much everything is still the same, and amazing how much has changed. For example, the rusted hitch-and-wheels is still on the property, rusting away. The cedar next to the cabin has grown significantly taller and shades the cabin a lot more than in 1985, and I don't recall ever seeing so many turtles in the lake. Too, the woodpiles are quite impressive. I have to admit that, with a gas furnace (perhaps installed since 1985?), I don't chop too much wood (and don't use most of the wood that I chop, either).

I would very much like to thank Kurt for sharing his memories of his time in the cabin in the woods, and encourage any other readers to feel free to send me their own recollections or photographs of times past in Saginaw Forest.